By: IMA Staff
Derived from a simple, yet profound poem titled “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae in the spring of 1915, the poppy has become an iconic symbol used to honor our veterans on Remembrance Day.
“In Flanders Fields” is a ‘lasting legacy’ to the horrendous 17 day battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915 and to war in general, where, as a soldier and a surgeon, he treated an international assembly of battered and devastatingly damaged soldiers. McCrae later described the ordeal as “seventeen days of Hades!”
On the eighteenth day, following the burial of a dear friend, Colonel McCrae wrote his iconic poem while sitting on the back of an ambulance. He was in the company of a young NCO who watched him write while waiting to deliver his mail. Upon completion the Colonel silently handed young Sergeant-major, Cyril Allinson his notepad, took his mail and left.
“The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” – Cyril Allinson
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
McCrae in fact threw out his poem, dissatisfied. However, a fellow officer ‘retrieved it’ and submitted it to a London paper who later published it on 8 December 1915.
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(Source: Canada in World War 1 – Canadian Great War Project Copyright © 2004-2013 Marc Leroux)